So, let's take a look.
Tim Hudak (PC--Niagara-Glanbrook)
Hudak is the only candidate to have a clearly enunciated platform plank on education, featuring four elements.
Hudak’s plan includes:
Enhanced Use of Phonics: Greater emphasis on phonics as a basis for literacy and enhanced training and support for teachers in its use.Frank Klees (PC--Newmarket-Aurora)
High School Exit Exams: Work with the Education Quality and Accountability Office to introduce province-wide high school exit exams to provide more information to parents, students and post-secondary institutions.
Financial Literacy: Make economic and financial literacy a mandatory part of the high school curriculum.
Fair and Accurate Grading: Eliminate unfair pressure on teachers to make sure students pass even if the student is unwilling or unable to complete the work.
Klees has been his party's longtime education critic. One can quickly take a peek with a simple search at his various positions on the government's record on education through his statements in the legislature and on his website. It's disappointing, however, given this track record that Klees has nothing on his website indicating what his entire education platform is. The only thing I could find that was close enough was his statement on autism coming out of the government's track record on ABA and other therapies for children with autism.
Randy Hillier (PC--Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox&Addington)
This relative newbie to the legislature doesn't have anything overly specific to education on his leadership website. The interesting reading on the subject comes under the section of his site where he solicits policy ideas from anyone with enough time to fill out the web form. Several of those who have submitted ask Hillier to take on voucher / charter schools as part of his platform. One in particular asks for a greater emphasis on science within the current curriculum. Given Hillier's politics (he has an interesting history as a property owners' rights advocate and has written for separatist publications in the past) he is easily the most rural, conservative candidate on the ballot.
Christine Elliott (PC--Whitby-Oshawa)
Like the other two above, Elliott has nothing explicit on her site about education. The word gets only three hits in a simple search, with one referring to Northern Ontario, one on her flat-tax plank and the last on educating us about the ills of addictions.
Frankly, it's disappointing.
The Tories are five days away from the deadline to sign up new members eligible to vote for the new leader. Education is the second-largest expense on the government (after healthcare), and only one of the candidates has explicitly listed where he would take education in this province. Dealing specifically with Hudak, I would wonder whether he's been paying attention to what his family has been experiencing. Phonics is used as part of the toolkit in both early years and primary grades as children learn to read and write. This reporter has witnessed it first-hand in a number of classrooms. On the matter of a high school exit exam-- isn't this one of the roles fulfilled by the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test? Students cannot obtain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma without passing (remembering that a Level 3 is roughly equivalent to a B mark) the test or the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course. I would also question whether an exit exam would really help all students. If I'm in a school-to-work program in high school, do I write the same exit exam as the student heading for university? Our post-secondary outcomes are drastically different.
I'll try and keep an eye on any developments in these candidates' platforms until the vote in late June.
Hat-tip to Sandy (and her own source).